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Seeds of Dissension

A Case Study in Patenting Genetic Material

Co Authors:

Elaine M. Schamber
Agronomy Department
Purdue University

Paul A. Hammond
Horticulture Department
Purdue University


A possible act of industrial espionage is the backdrop for this case study, which introduces students to analytical techniques routinely used in most areas of biotechnology, including forensic science and patent lawsuits. In this fictional case, "Roger Wezel," formerly employed at ExOil developing soybean seeds high in oleic acid, now works at a competing company, SeedGene Inc., after befing fired by ExOil over a dispute with his boss. ExOil has just discovered that Roger is at SeedGene, and also that SeedGene is now advertising high-oil soybean seeds. ExOil suspects that Roger stole their seeds and gave them to SeedGene to produce their own high oleic acid variety. ExOil wants to test some of the seeds from their competitor to see if they are the same strain in order to support their accusation that SeedGene is violating their patent. The case is designed for use with advanced biology students or introductory genetics students.

  • Introduce molecular analysis techniques.
  • Research and present one of these techniques to the class, including the production of visual aids.
  • Learn that the results of these techniques need to be analyzed critically so that strengths and weaknesses inherent in the techniques can be used to advantage.
Keywords: DNA sequencing; protein synthesis; gel electrophoresis; restriction enzyme digest; restriction fragment length polymorphism; RFLP; polymerase chain reaction; PCR; single strand conformational polymorphism; soybeans; oil; seeds; patent infringement
Topical Area: Legal issues
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Laboratory, Role-Play, Trial
Language: English
Subject Headings: Molecular Biology   Genetics / Heredity   Biotechnology   Food Science / Technology   Agriculture   Business / Management Science  
Date Posted: 03/17/03
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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